A Needless and Frustrating Barrier on the Road to 5G

By at 15 November, 2021, 12:17 pm

By Karen Kerrigan-

As SBE Council has noted time and again through our education and advocacy work, small businesses and startup entrepreneurs have benefitted greatly from our nation’s broadband networks and the innovative tools, services and consumer uses they’ve generated. We’ve been very excited about the next generation of wireless networks, and regularly communicate how small businesses will be able to leverage 5G’s power in terms of strengthening competitiveness, brand awareness, marketing efforts, operational efficiency and more in a 5G world.

Policy changes along with the federal government making needed spectrum available have moved things along nicely (generally) over the past few years, and it was exciting to see that some of the big players such as AT&T and Verizon were preparing to hit another 5G launch button for early December regarding their rollouts of a new 5G frequency band.

But this important effort has come to a screeching halt due to last minutes safety objections raised by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the use of the C-band spectrum, which has already been purchased for 5G purposes by various private-sector players. In response, and unfortunately, AT&T and Verizon have pulled back on their rollout.

As Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, recently wrote in USA Today, “there are numerous reasons why the FAA’s concerns around 5G deployment look to be more of a red herring than a legitimate technical concern.” In the piece, O’Donnell reviews the issue in detail – specifically involving the C-band spectrum – and the significant downside of delaying 5G rollout when extraordinary due diligence has been undertaken by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – the lead expert agency – to ensure safety, among other issues.

As noted by O’Donnell, FAA’s objection (where no hard data has been provided to back their claim or concerns) appears to be more of a federal agency turf squabble. America’s economy cannot afford to allow government agency turf battles to stand in the way of technological innovation. After all, nearly 40 other countries are currently using the C-Band spectrum for 5G services. There has not been one (that’s ZERO) report of interference. I will add that American planes fly in these countries where, again, there have been no issues, no FAA warnings, and no reports of interference.

At the same time that the FCC carefully reviewed safety issues among other critical matters, the agency also put into place safety protections. For example, wireless carriers can only use some of the available frequencies so that an extra safety buffer remains between 5G signals and the frequencies used by aviators.

Our major international competitors – such as China – are moving aggressively into a 5G future. The American economy and our small businesses cannot be left behind. Federal government agencies must resolve this issue quickly to ensure that their squabbling and lack of communication is not holding up needed investment and innovation that will help our economy more effectively compete, and better recover and readjust to a post-COVID digital world.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.




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